We all like to peek behind the curtain. To learn the secrets of the trade, how the sausage gets made. To feel like we have an understanding and appreciation of the process that others don’t quite get. It’s human nature. We are inquisitive. We want to know more, to understand the secret language of the professional. So, with a nod toward our own longing to belong, won’t you join me now as we stand and make the Industry Sour.
The more I explore the cocktail world, the more I appreciate the herbal, bitter side of the menu. I didn’t figure it would happen to me, but here we are. I have noticed that most of my bartender buddies tend to lean toward a more bitter palate with their personal drinking. After playing around with so many sweet drinks over the years, I have found that I, too, want something bitter and complex as a respite from most menus. This one leans into two of my favorites, that Fernet-Branca that I never thought I would like and Green Chartreuse, which I fell in love with at first sip. It was created at the recently closed Taste in St. Louis by Ted Kilgore. Yep, that’s the same guy that gave us The Grey Fizz, an inspired riff on the classic Ramos Gin Fizz. With it’s bitter leaning build and easy equal parts construction you can tell this one was made by someone in the industry for a colleague. In fact, when Kilgore first made it he thought, “What if I put all of my favorite things into a glass and just give it to him?” That is what he did and magic happened.
This is a super simple build. Grab your tins and pop in 1 ounce each of Fernet-Branca, Green Chartreuse, simple syrup and fresh squeezed lime juice. That’s it. Toss in a couple of those artisanal ice cubes and give it a good shake to the beat of “Kites” by Dessa. Double strain into a chilled coupe and garnish with a dehydrated lime or just hold the salad, the drink doesn’t really need it.
First off this is a bit sweeter than I expected from my “industry” inspired preconceptions. That said, it is some kind of wonderful. The Fernet jumps right to the front, as expected, but the chartreuse brings a really nice herbal undertone that both complements and counters the bitter Fernet. No complaints about the simple bringing things into the more accessible realm, but what I really love here is the bright finish that the lime juice adds. On the surface, this is a simple drink, just four equal parts, but the complexity of the alcohols gives this one a depth that belies the apparent simplicity.
This is sold as kind of an insider drink and I get that. Hell, that is why I ordered my first one. Of course, we all want to be in the club, learn the secret handshakes, skip the line and enjoy all those privileges of membership. I used to think that was what it was all about. The older I get them more I realize it is really is less about the perks and more about a sense of belonging. There is a lot to be said about finding those spaces where you are comfortable, where you feel like you are seen and valued, the places where they know your name.
Of course, there are shortcuts. Sometimes, you can buy your way past the velvet rope, just ask any of the folks at the country club or the “VIP lounge”. I’ll let you in on a secret, if you can buy a ticket, it’s not for the real VIP’s. I never put much stock in the kind of belonging I could get by writing a check. Of course, I don’t have to worry about that too much, like Groucho Marx, I’m unlikely to join any club that would have someone like me as a member. I never was much of a joiner, I prefer sort of hanging around the edges of the scene, being a mostly decent person, doing my part, helping out my fellow humans when I can and trying to always be kind. I often don’t get that right, especially the last part, but there is something to be said for the trying. Like Tom Robbins said, “When we succeed, we raise the exhilaration content of the universe. We even raise it a little bit when we fail.” No matter which side of the bar you prefer, do your part, be excellent to each other and you will find your place. Till then, stay safe, stay hydrated and stay sane, my friends.